Top 5 Ways to Fumble a Job Interview

Job interviews are stressful enough. Transitioning military members shouldn’t make them worse with self-inflicted no-nos.
Job interviews are stressful enough. Transitioning military members shouldn’t make them worse with self-inflicted no-nos. (Adobe stock image)

Job interviews are crucial points in the lives of most people, and that's especially true for recently transitioned veterans. So it's important not to slip up if you're lucky enough to land one. Don't overstress; think carefully about your strategy and prepare as best you can.

It's important to walk into an interview with your best foot forward, so take a look at these top five ways to fumble a job interview collected by Money Talks News. Learn these mistakes, do your best to avoid making them, and you have a greater chance at a successful job interview.

1. Checking or Answering Your Phone

When in a job interview, checking your phone is the universal gesture for, "I'm not paying attention." And that is a sure way to stain your reputation with any potential employer. Smartphones are culturally ubiquitous and their saturation in modern life is only growing, but there are still many times and places where they should be stowed. Even if you deliver the most polite, "Hold on," of your life just to check your alerts, you're expressing to the interviewer that your interest in the job is secondary to whatever's happening on your mobile.

If you need to have access to your phone in case of an emergency, let the interviewer know ahead of time. It may not always work, but it's better to say, "My family member is currently in the hospital and I might need to excuse myself in case of an emergency. Please excuse the potential interruption," than to whip it out mid-conversation and try to bluster your way through apologizing on the spot.

2. Arriving Late Without an Explanation

Job interviews are one of the most important events to be on time for. Not just on time, but early. Aim to arrive well ahead of your scheduled interview time, and you'll be shooting for good interview etiquette. If you've served in the military, you certainly know what it's like for "on time" to mean "early."

If you show up late, even by a minute or two, you've seriously hampered your chances at landing the job. Lateness is just as grave an insult as pulling out your phone, and for the same reasons: It displays disinterest, even disrespect, in the position.

Do whatever you can to ensure timely arrival: Triple-check your route and do whatever you can to clear your schedule. If something comes up that will interfere with the appointed interview time, gauge how important it is, because it may cost you your shot at landing the job.

3. Not Bringing in Required Items

What better way to show a prospective employer that you're chronically scatterbrained than to forget the items they asked you to bring? Chances are that once you're on the job, forgetting a document once in a while won't be a big deal, but job interviews are not so forgiving.

You have a limited amount of time to impress the interviewer, and leaving something behind will only reflect poorly on you as a professional. Do whatever it takes to be put together on interview day. Draw up a checklist, pack the night before, leave everything in front of your door and get a friend to double-check your list.

4. Inappropriate Interview Clothing

Wearing the right outfit for an interview can be immensely stressful. Suit and tie? Just a business shirt? Does a polo count as business casual? The rule of thumb is to wear something that's one step up in formality beyond what the company's day-to-day attire is.

If the office has no dress code, business casual will set you on the right track. If everyone's wearing formal business attire, bring out your best suit or professional skirt. Looking your best is only part of the equation, and in general, employers are more interested in your professional qualifications, which -- with rare exceptions -- does not include your appearance. You don't have to look like a superstar, but you need to present yourself as an individual who will fit in with the work culture and can get the job done.

5. Negative Comments About Past Positions

It's an easy habit, but it's a bad one to pick up. You might be thinking, "Yeah, I really like you guys! You're better than those windbags at my old job." Or something along the lines of, "Gosh, my last boss was so terrible and you seem so nice."

But don't ever come close to saying anything like that. In the professional world, grace is key to good networking and developing business relationships. If you bring personal issues into a meeting, especially your first with a prospective employer, you will be seen as a potential source of conflict. Do your best to avoid saying anything negative about your old company, but if the subject is brought in some uncomfortable way, be diplomatic about it. Either avoid answering directly, or turn the negative into a neutral.

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